Left Behind Movies Should Be Left Behind

There is yet another Left Behind movie coming out soon. Reportedly starring Nicolas Cage, for some reason.

Yes, they did just put out a Left Behind movie not long ago. I thought Kirk Cameron beat this whole thing into the ground already?

No, I will not go to see it.

No, the theology will not be correct.

No, I don’t need to see it to know that its theology is not correct.

No, I don’t think Hollywood making “Christian” movies is a good thing.

Yes, I do believe in a rapture, a Tribulation, a Millennial Kingdom, and then a new heaven and new earth, and I believe it happens in that order, too.

No, I am not interested in hearing your alternative theory.

One of the themes in these movies is that when the rapture happens “millions” of people will disappear. That the rapture will remove so many people, that the world will be in chaos over it.

This is one area where the theology is wrong, I think.

There has always been a remnant (“remnant” means “not many” for those of you who read the NIV). When the Lord returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Noah is the first biblical example of the rapture (apart from Enoch, anyway). Noah and his family got in the ark and rose above God’s outpouring of wrath on the earth. Not many escaped the wrath.

Lot left before his town got blasted with God’s wrath, he couldn’t even get his whole family to leave with him. Not many escaped the wrath.

Trust me when I say, when the rapture happens, hardly anyone will notice. I’m quite sure most churches will still be full, and a few may wonder why the pastor is gone. But then football.

Don’t get your theology from Hollywood. Read the Bible. To understand End Times, know the books of Daniel, the portions of Jesus’ teachings about The End, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation. Having a good grasp of OT prophets is helpful too, especially Isaiah.

If you don’t use all of that, you won’t make much sense out of eschatology. Also grasp that there is a difference between Israel and the Church, which you can get by reading the rest of the Bible.

Get your eschatology from the whole counsel of God. Do not support Hollywood’s sensationalism of theological concepts.

No, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. (And by “it,” I mean the movie, not the theology.)

What is the Best Form of Evangelism?

Here’s a theory rolling around my brain lately.

When it comes to a person’s favorite form of evangelism (the one they are most comfortable doing themselves), I wonder if it is also the one that was instrumental in their salvation.

I know many people who despise street preachers, yet there are some very effective street preachers, many of whom were saved by a street preacher.

Many despise giving out tracts, “at least have the courtesy to go out of your way to talk to me.” Yet many hand out tracts, and many do so because a tract was instrumental in their salvation.

Many despise church camps, but those who tout their benefits were often people saved at a church camp.

Now, in all this, one must make the assumption that you know when  you were saved. For some this is easier than others.

My salvation was gradual, as far as I can tell. There was no crisis moment. I sort of remember asking my dad a question and praying something while laying on the bottom bunk in my bedroom.

But I have no idea what I said, if it is even a real memory (yes, I’m getting old), and I have no idea on the timing.

When it comes to “how I got saved,” I’d have to chalk it up to a constant inundation of talk about faith and the Bible, as well as being surrounded by examples of faith that were both good and bad.

Perhaps that is why my preferred method of evangelism is pastoral work–constantly handing out biblical information and doing my best to live it.

I think the Church needs to be gentle in judging all forms of evangelism. Most people who despise certain methods of evangelism come from people who have no method of evangelism.

Typically, judgmentalism comes out of insecurity and a feeling of inferiority or guilt. The best form of evangelism is the form you do!

Lighten up on others, take care of you.

God Hiring Idle People Standing Around

Matthew 20 tells a parable of a vineyard owner who hires some guys at various points of the day and then at the end of the day gives everyone the same wage.

It’s a parable that is used to show the goofiness of grace and the inevitable response of the older brother who finds fault with grace being given to those “not worth it.”

Grace is not fair, it’s one of the problems people have with it.

It doesn’t seem right that both the guy who spent his whole life following Christ gets the same reward as the one who converts on his deathbed after a lifetime of debauchery.

But salvation is not fair to anyone, quite frankly. No one deserves it. There is a certain amount of injustice to grace–which is why God had to find a just way to justify the unjust, and this way cost nothing more than the death of the Son of God.

Here’s a little something else to think about in relationship to the parable of Matthew 20: observe Proverbs 26:10

Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.”

I suppose a guy could get technical and say the laborers that were hired weren’t “passing by,” they were standing idle in the market place. OK fine, whatever.

The point is that hiring any random stranger hurts everyone! Yet this is the exact metaphor for entering the Kingdom!

Or is it? Does God hire random people passing by, or does God seek people to be saved?

Interesting. Or is it?

Here’s another thing to throw into the mix–getting to go to heaven is equated with receiving a wage for work done. I thought it was by grace through faith, not by works? How can Jesus use such a poor illustration when we so vociferously maintain that we can’t do anything for salvation lest we negate grace?

How should a Christian’s Life Be Different?

Christians, we are told, are supposed to live a new life in Christ.

Most have no idea what that means, which, of course, doesn’t stop them from saying it, but they can’t ever explain it.

In the end, what is the difference between the life of a non-Christian and one who is living the life of Christ in them?

All people, whether Christ is in them or not, will have to do many similar things. Christ-in-you doesn’t mean you don’t have to eat, sleep, work, get sick, etc. But there should be a difference. Here’s my attempt at succinctly summing up how living the new life in Christ looks different from those still living the Old Life.

1. Love.
We have to start here. Without love, doing good profits you nothing. Again, this is a swell thing to say, but what does it mean? I will define what it means by showing what it doesn’t mean:

a. Self-promotion–everyone is vying for your attention wanting to sell you something or get you to join their cause. Many of these sales and causes are fine, but their primary motive is self. Much of their outreach is nothing more than networking. Love seeks not its own

b. Money–many do good deeds, but many do it to make money. “Charitable” organizations are becoming well-known for using most of their funds to pay staff and doing very little good otherwise.

c. Guilt. There are many people who will volunteer and donate to stuff, but guilt seems to be why. They are working off sin, or trying to be impressive, or to feel better about themselves. “I just feel so good after volunteering.” Fine, but are you loving others, or just going for the moral high?

Doing things out of love means you are not interested primarily in what you will gain from it. When love is done right, I believe you will gain from it, but gain is not your primary driving force.

2. Holiness
Holiness doesn’t mean living in a cloistered environment staying unspotted from “the world.” Holiness does mean “separation,” but we must understand the separation rightly. Paul says we were not called to avoid sinners, if we were we’d have to leave the world. There is much of the world’s stuff we need to get rid of. Entertainment, I am coming to see, is one of the major areas we need to show holiness. Be not unequally yoked in any relationship. Put off sin. This is not done by living in a hole, but by living in the world, and yet being sanctified to God, set apart, a vessel used for honor. It’s a big issue!

3. Self-control
Self-denial is one of the main attributes of one who is no longer living his life but the life of Christ. It’s not about you. That being the case, your fleshly appetites don’t run the show. You can resist temptation. You can demonstrate bodily subjection. Your life is not up and down, but relatively constant emotionally. You aren’t constantly digging holes for yourself to fall into. Your money is handled well. Your burdens are being well carried by yourself, but you are also not afraid to ask for help when you realize life is too big.

4. Edifying Words
A man who can control his tongue has a perfect religion, says James. Amen to that! The Bible is filled with verses about the words coming out of your mouth. Your words are grace, they are a gift, they edify, and help. Filthy communication is gone. Coarse jesting is out. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If Christ is in your heart, Christlike words will come out of your mouth, speaking the truth in love.

5. Money
No man can serve God and mammon. If your priorities in life clearly show your main concern is making money, the life of Christ is not in you. Christ was not one wit concerned about money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Money is a thing; loving money (also known as covetousness, which is idolatry) makes the thing into a sin. Don’t fool yourself on this one. It is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. Don’t play games here. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

6. Suffering
Christ was a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. Anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We lay down our bodies as living sacrifices. We rejoice in tribulation and in suffering, knowing it is trying our faith and developing Christlike character. We, by the Spirit, become “long-suffering!” The world lives to avoid suffering; the one with Christ life seeks suffering, rejoices in suffering, and isn’t really all that troubled by it personally.

I’ll stop there for brevity’s sake. Most of “life in Christ” is summed up by the fruit of the Spirit. By the Beatitudes.

Note that the list above said nothing about homosexuals, abortionists, murderers, pot smokers, and other pet sins Christians like to hammer. Stopping sin is part of all this, but honestly, there are people not doing “huge” sins who still aren’t living the life of Christ.

Living the life of Christ isn’t so much about what you’re not doing (although that certainly is part of it), but it’s mostly seen by what you are doing.

This is a huge subject. This is only a beginning point of an explanation. Yes, I left out plenty, but I do think these are central issues to living as a new creation in Christ Jesus.

The point is not to make this into a checklist and go do this. The point is to know Christ. Ask for the Spirit’s help. Don’t rely on your abilities to pull this off. Look to Christ, don’t fixate on you. If you don’t have the Spirit, none of this is possible.

You must be born again. The list above is what it looks like to be born again, to have new life in Christ Jesus. Get it and live it.

How to Have Confidence in the Day of Judgment

Eternal Security is one of those issues where people would rather believe happy thoughts than what the Bible says.

The Bible has many warning passages (even by Paul) about “if you continue” or “if you hold fast.”

Without getting into the issue itself, I think there is a HUGE problem the church has with eternal security and assurance.

The problem lies in this: Because a person feels secure they are going to heaven, does not mean they have eternal security!

In other words, just because you really, really think you are going to heaven, means absolutely nothing on Judgment Day.

This is example four based on the three examples of yesterday about people who have a problem and yet specifically deny the biblical solution.

A person came to me in the process of dying, very worried about eternal security. They thought they were going to heaven, but they weren’t sure.

This was also a person who was not, shall we say, the best example of Christ-likeness I’ve ever run across.

The Bible tells us quite clearly how we can have confidence on the day of judgment.

Having confidence today that you will have confidence in the day of judgment is not the issue.

Whether you feel secure is a rather minor point in the whole issue.

If you want confidence in the day of judgment, we are told this:

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

Confidence in the day of judgment comes from living like Christ now in this world. Grace is what teaches us to live this way in this present world.

The Bible’s test as to whether you are saved is not because you feel you are, not because you think you are, not even because you say you are.

The test the Bible gives to let us know we are saved, that we can have confidence in the day of judgment, is if we increasingly are becoming like Christ.

Are you increasingly living the new life Christ has put in you? Then you can have confidence.

“What? I don’t have to look like Christ! I’m saved by grace, I don’t have to do anything.” Say the same folks who seem so cocksure of their eternal security. Not because they actually are, deathbeds are revealing, but because they are trying to convince themselves it is so.

Obedience to Christ, living the life of Christ in you by the Spirit, is the only way to have confidence in the day of judgment.

The only way.

You may have a false confidence today, but today doesn’t count like That Day. Have confidence then by living like Christ now.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit: 3 Examples

I said this brilliant statement the other day here:

“The more miserable people get, the more they deny the very teaching that can answer their problems.”

This is a thought that has run through my mind for several years. I can give you a couple examples of people who make me think about this:

1) A person came to me wondering why they had no fruit in their life. They were sincerely bummed by this, and they were also sincerely bummed by the amount of sin raging in their life. This was also a person who didn’t think they had to do good works, they were saved by grace, “I don’t have to do anything.” I pointed them to Titus 3:14, “let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” You have to do good works if you want fruit. “I don’t have to do good works!” they insisted. OK, but you won’t have any fruit. “I don’t think so. I don’t have to do good works.” OK! But see, you’re the one coming to me because you have no fruit and I just showed you a Bible verse saying how you can get fruit, but you refuse to do it. If you don’t have to do good works, then don’t expect any fruit! “Well, I don’t think so, but I do wish I had fruit.”

2) A person came to me completely worried about everything, to the point of stress and anxiety leading to health problems, over-eating and all sorts of stuff. This was a person wrapped up in houses, jobs, money, possessions, expensive eating habits, and all manner of materialism. I showed them many verses in the Bible about material things, and how worry is eliminated once we put physical things in their right place. “Whatever, that’s not reasonable. I can’t just turn on all those things, I need that to live!” OK, but don’t expect your worry to go away. “I’m not giving up my stuff, and what about my kids?” The Bible says our relationship with Christ is most important, until that’s the case you will have worry. “I can’t do that. I do wish I could overcome my worry though.”

3) A person came to me with verses about rejoicing. “I need to have more rejoicing, Paul is always telling us to rejoice, yet I don’t feel joy ever.” I used the same context of the passage they brought up to show them that rejoicing doesn’t come from a determination to be happy, but comes from a humble, servant mindset like Christ had. “What? I live for other people and that makes me rejoice?” That’s what Christ did, and even though He suffered on the cross for others, He did it for the joy set before Him. “I don’t have to suffer for other people. I don’t have to sacrifice to show love to others.” OK, but don’t expect any rejoicing then. “That’s nuts. I’d be a mess if I had to worry about doing things for others all the time. I sure wish I had more rejoicing in my life, though.”

One thing I’ve noticed about each of these people is that, without going into detail about them, they each theologically work themselves out of any verse that tells them to do stuff. None of them thinks the Sermon on the Mount is for them. None of them thinks good works is part of who they need to be as believers. They all have the notion that since they are saved by grace they can do whatever they want. “The Bible suggests things, but I don’t have to obey, they aren’t commandments.”

This is so asinine to me from a theological standpoint, and the results of that view of Scripture wreak havoc practically. These are not happy people. These are not people I would ever model my faith after. These are people who are guilt-ridden, unhappy, worriers and yet all try to buck themselves up with false platitudes about grace and love.

Rather than listen to Scripture, they prefer to use human platitudes. If they won’t let me use Scripture, I have nothing else.

It’s amazing how simple-obedience to Jesus Christ leads to so much of what we truly desire. It is just as amazing that those who deny their obligation to be obedient have such horrible lives, sometimes even admitted to by they themselves.

Oh people, learn humility, obedience, service, love, and grace. Live that and so much of life will make more sense and what you desire will truly be fulfilled.

Who Has the Power to Destroy Soul and Body in Hell?

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

I have always understood this verse to be talking about fear of God. Now I am wondering if that is true?

Was reading something online recently about this verse and they suggested the one to fear was Satan, not God in this passage.

“Fear” shows up other times in the same context.

Matthew 10:25-26–do not fear those who chalk up the works of the Master to Beelzebub. A word to encourage disciples of Christ when they fall into persecution and accusation. Don’t fear.

Matthew 10:28–is the verse above about not fearing those who can kill your body, but do fear the one who can destroy body and soul in hell.

Matthew 10:29-31–Your Father will take care of you, so fear not, you are more valuable than sparrows and God cares for them.

Starts with not fearing persecutors.
Follows to do fear one who can destroy body and soul in hell.
Ends with not fearing because your Father will take care of you.

Most translation leave the “him” of “Fear him” in verse 28 uncapitalized, thus playing into the idea that we’re not talking about God, since “Him” for “God” is always capitalized.

Some have suggested that it is weird to tell us to fear and then right after tell us not to. In verse 28 we’re not fearing the one who has power to destroy in hell, whereas verse 31 is not fearing anything because of the Father’s care. Seems weird to be told not to fear because of God so fear Him. Although, don’t know that that’s that weird really!

The parallel passage in Luke 5 says:

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Who has power to kill? There has been some debate on this point. Satan is a murderer from the beginning. God did not create with death as part of His system.

This is, in fact, where the debate lies. If you are a Calvinist you have no problem with saying God kills people. If you are not a Calvinist, you may wonder how if God kills people, why do we need Satan?

Hebrews 2:14 says that Jesus “through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The one with the power of death is the Devil, which is why many think Jesus is talking about fearing the Devil, not fearing God, and why most translation do not capitalize “him” in Matthew 10:28.

Therefore the flow of Matthew 10 would be this:

Don’t fear the followers of the Devil.
It is logical to fear the Devil himself.
But in the end, don’t fear, because God is bigger still.

I’ll probably have to think about this one a bit more, but perhaps this is yet another instance of where our underlying theological assumptions color our understanding of the Scripture and of God.

Be careful out there.

10 Points on Colossians 3:3–You Are Dead

The Bible is great at succinctly saying profound things. One of my favorites is in Colossians 3:

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Pruning it down to three words helps us see the impact better:

Ye are dead.

I love that! If we truly grasped this simple truth, our lives would remarkably change. Here are some points about being dead and in Christ:

1) Most people misunderstand all the “dead” talk in the NT. Most think it is some sort of mind game, a spiritual position with no real practical impact. This is not good.

2) Being dead is real, but we also must make it real. Paul talks about “Reckon yourselves to be dead” as we have to make it true in reality. “Mortify the deeds” of your body, or “mortify your members” of your body, means to Kill Off. It’s the same thing as when Jesus said to cut off the offending hand, foot, or eye. Ye are dead. Act like it!

3) We are dead in Christ, but our bodies are very much alive. Living the spiritual deadness to sin, the flesh, and the world is something we make our bodies do now. Present your bodies a living sacrifice.

4) The imagery is wonderfully helpful. If you are dead, your life on earth is over. We set our affections on things above. We are citizens of heaven. This is no mind game; this is a call to live your eternal life now.

5) This is so annoyingly practical most skip it. If you are dead, then go the extra mile, give your shirt with the coat, lend and not ask for it back, don’t live for approval of people, don’t live for money, don’t live for things on this earth, it might even cost you family relationships. But you’re dead, what did you think was going to happen?

6) Most will deny what I just said in point 5, “That’s not practical. He can’t really expect us to live like that.” He does and no, it isn’t practical! It’s called living by faith, which to the flesh mind looks impractical, stupid, and a waste.

7) Those who deny the real, practical applications of point 5 will worry their way through life, wondering why they don’t have peace, amazed God doesn’t answer their prayers, and wondering why they don’t have any fruit. The more miserable they get, the more they deny the very teaching that can answer their problems.

8) You cannot be dead and still live the “American Dream.” This is the false teaching of the Prosperity Gospel–Jesus saves you so you can live your best life now. This is so far from Gospel truth it literally is not funny. You cannot serve God and mammon. No soldier of Jesus Christ concerns himself with affairs of this life. Ye are dead.

9) Since most would rather have stuff, mammon, riches, and the American Dream, the Gospel goes unbelieved, even while many claim to believe it. The road to destruction is broad and many there be who go on it.

10) You are dead. Your life is over. It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. This will look like something! Be not mistaken! Be not deceived! If your life is not increasingly looking like Christ’s, you are not on the narrow road leading to life. To many this sounds like works righteousness, legalism, and the antithesis of grace. But this only goes to show how few, even in the church, are on the narrow road.

You are dead.

Live like it.

KJV Vocabulary Lesson: What is Concupiscence?

I enjoy the King James Version. As a kid, I memorized verses in the KJV, so I can’t find verses in other translations like I can in the KJV.

I like the way it uses language. The prophets in any new translation just aren’t the same.

The poetry. The beauty of it all. I like it.

I also get frustrated with it. I am not a KJV Only guy.

It uses weird words. “Concupiscence” is one of them. This isn’t one of those weird English words that changes meaning either, it’s just a weird English word.

Concupiscence is in the KJV NT three times–

Romans 7:8–But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.

Colossians 3:5–Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry

1 Thessalonians 4:5–Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

All uses are from the Greek word epithumia, which is nice. The KJV will often translate different English words from one Greek word.

In fact, many translations struggle with that consistency. For instance, the ESV goes with “covetousness,” then “desire,” and then “lust” in these three verses. I hate that.

So, hey, cool, the KJV uses the word consistently from the same Greek word.

However, this Greek word is also translated “lust” nine times, “lusts” 22 times, “desire” three times, and “desired” one time, in other places in the KJV.

In essence, the word means, “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.”

Concupiscence is “wanting bad stuff.”I think that is the way it’s separated from simple lust, which could just be lusting after a thing, whereas concupiscence is wanting a bad thing.

Lust might just be wanting another Oreo; concupiscence is desiring more porn.

Concupiscence is not good. You shouldn’t do it, whether you use a big word to describe it, or a little word. Stop it.

Getting Mad at Sinful NFL Players Will Not Help Your Spiritual Growth

There is much commotion in the NFL right now. Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious, yet didn’t get dealt with by the league until there was video footage.

Adrian Peterson whipped his kids with a stick and has been reinstated by the Vikings to play Sunday.

I find all the moralistic blathering a tad too much, coming from our society.

I don’t like jumping on bandwagons about individual’s moral failures. I’ve dealt with too many hurting sinners to know the pain of real moral failing.

I also know my poor track record at distinguishing guilt or innocence in cases where I do not have full information. Ramped up moralistic vitriol sounds too Pharisaic for me.

That’s fine if others join in, because here I am judging people for being too moralistic! Rather Pharisaical myself.

But, seriously, in trying to avoid all moralistic high-horses and not be a Pharisee, we really need to tone down our judgments of other people’s sins. We do. Especially if you have sin of your own.

Major League Baseball gives out the Roberto Clemente Award every year for the player who most exemplifies baseball and helps his community. Roberto Clemente was indeed a fine human being, a great athlete, and a humanitarian. The annual award is to point out someone like him.

The Milwaukee Brewers nominated their suspended for all season last year player, Ryan Braun.

I find this hilarious. I don’t know if they did it as a joke, but man, that is funny. Braun took steroids. He lied about it. He was OK with continuing to lie while people in the process were fired and castigated. Finally, when they had him nailed, he admitted to it all.

Now he is nominated for a humanitarian award for the player who “most exemplifies baseball.” Braun, indeed, seems to exemplify modern professional sports.

But since when were our professional athletes lily white beacons of righteousness? Can’t quite recall that time. Sure, there have always been nice, upstanding individuals in sports, but for the most part, these are not role model material.

“Sports develop character” is the old cliche that rings more and more hollow as we move along.

The NFL is thinking of adding more women to the decision making processes of the league to curb the moral failings of its players. As we all know, women are bastions of morality themselves.

Seriously, sin is a big problem. It’s a big problem in any profession, including clergy. The more we find guilty people to jump on, the more justification we give ourselves for our sin.

Examine yourself. Deal with sinners-you-know in a biblical manner–usually begins with dealing with your own sin. Whether I watch the NFL or not, makes no difference to Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice. Whether I spew anger and vengeance at them will matter nothing to them either.

But judging them might do its part to self-righteously bemuse my way to my own failure. Showing anger at other people’s sin is never listed as a Christian virtue. Biblically, it’s typically a sign that your own fall is coming.

The Bible, Premarital Sex, and Marriage Part 2

Yesterday I pontificated upon Exodus 22:16, which says that it is lawful to have premarital sex with a woman as long as you intend to officially make her your wife.

It is lawful to go about marriage this way, however most Christians would say that premarital sex, even for an engaged couple, is wrong, let alone for a non-engaged couple.

I find this sort of clear-cut statement a tad amusing.

The Bible has many accounts of people getting married. Most of it involves going and getting a woman, having sex with her, and taking her home.

Other unique Biblical ways of getting a wife include, but are not limited to:

Having your servant go get one for your son
Holding a dance and having men hide in the bushes and jump out and grab a cute woman to take home
Get mad at a married guy and have God kill him and then take his wife
Work for a father of a cute girl for seven years, then marry her sister, work seven more years and finally get the woman of your dreams
Cut foreskins off the enemies of the father of a cute girl
Hold a beauty contest and bed the winner

Certainly no one would use such means in our day, this is true. So, perhaps we should stop using the Bible as a guide for getting a wife?

So, what about Exodus 22:16 and the lawfulness of premarital sex?

Well, couple things come into play.

1) We’re no longer under the Law of Moses; we now follow Christ, the embodiment of love, which is the fulfilling of the Law.

2) The Law also said divorce was OK. When the Pharisees pressed this point with Jesus, He said divorce was allowed because of the hardness of their heart. I think Exodus 22:16 fits that category to a tee. God is not saying this is how marriage must take place. He seems to be saying that if you have sex with a girl, make it right by marrying her.

3) The New Testament is filled with commands about sexual purity. Sex outside of marriage appears to be a fairly straight-forward teaching. However, when most young people who have sex take their confession to a church, usually the church judges them, kicks them out, and has a hissy fit, usually lead by older, nosy, voyeuristic men (not always, but I’ve seen it).

The sexual urge is a strong thing, especially in youthful people. People make mistakes. This is one of them. Once it has happened, there’s no going back. Make it right, marry the girl. Everyone else should chill, help them out, and encourage them to remain faithful and pure.

It is good for us to be honest with Scripture, not to make ridiculous statements about how the Bible says premarital sex is wrong. Use that carefully and know how to answer anyone who brings up Exodus 22:16, or related passages.

Know the Book before making absolute statements supposedly from it.

The Bible, Premarital Sex, and Marriage

There is and has been much talk about dating and marriage by Christians. Books abound on the subject. A topic that reminds me of the words of Solomon, “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

What cracks me up is that most of these books claim to tell us “what the Bible says” about marriage.

At best, these books focus in on one or two passages, the one or two passages the author believes sums up everything the Bible has to say about marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 is typically ignored, for instance, “the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.” Kind of throws a wrench into Jesus wanting you to have Date Night doesn’t it?

Few take into account all that the Bible says about marriage.

Yet strong moral pronouncements are made using Scripture to declare the author’s pet opinion.

For instance, many believe pre-marital sex is out of the question. Christians should not do this.

It’s bad. “The Bible says so.”

Except, of course, the Bible never says so.

This is where a guy can get himself in trouble, but alas, the Bible never says so.

The Bible implies if you have sex with someone you are married to them.

In fact, in a verse I’ve never heard anyone mention when it comes to “how the Bible says to get a wife,” there is Exodus 22:16:

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

The Law of God, as revealed to Moses, says pre-marital sex is a lawful way to get a wife!

Now, I’m not saying people should have sex before marriage, what I am saying is that we need to be careful how we link our opinions with supposed Scriptural authority.

Before launching on me and how horrible I am for saying pre-marital sex is lawful, go ahead and deal with the passage in an honest fashion.

I can, but I’m not worried about me. I’m more worried about those parents and pastors who speak to youth about stuff like this and tell people they are “speaking biblical truth,” when in reality a kid who has a concordance can argue quite well against such points.

Many a youth has wandered from church because a supposed Scriptural authority was detected playing games with Scripture.

Let’s be honest and careful with the Bible. Let’s not lead people astray by changing, or dishonestly ignoring, what the Bible says, just so we can buck up one of our favorite points.

An Intentional Dialogue to Thought-Lead a Conversation on Change Agenting the Noncontinuationalism of Jargon

Yesterday I talked about what “missional” means. “Missional” is underlined by my spell-checker because IT’S NOT A WORD!

Words like “missional” give me the creeps. When someone wants to “dialogue” with me I want to, frankly, just die, whether a log comes with me or not.

Lately there has been much talk about the church needing to be more intentional with stuff. Intentional. Intentional means to do stuff on purpose. “Intentional grounding” is when a quarterback purposely throws the ball into the ground to avoid taking a loss of yards on a play. He purposely fired the ball into the ground so the play would end.

I typed “the church needs more intentional” into search engines and came up with the following suggestions:

the church needs more intentional communities
the church needs more intentional infliction
the church needs more intentional living
the church needs more intentional interim pastors
the church needs more intentional discipleship

I don’t know. I really don’t know about “intentional infliction.” What?

Have we been unintentionally doing these things? I remember that one time I unintentionally hired an interim pastor! Oh man, that was a mess.

The list of non-sensically complex words could go on:

progressional dialogue (I kid you not)

I hope you don’t hear these much. If you do, I encourage you to change your hangouts.

People who have to invent new usages of words in such ways are doing one of a couple of things:

1) Trying to look smart
2) Hoping to intimidate you into awed silence, proving they are better than you
3) Trying to sound hip
4) Making stuff up and hoping you don’t ask questions

Most of it has to do with appearances, trying to dress up the outside to appear better. Trying to impress people is a bad sign. Not that we’re trying to un-impress (depress?) people. The point is that we live for the Lord and do things for Him not for people. Certainly God doesn’t need us to talk this way.

In the end, it might be innocent fun, but I honestly believe people who play games with words like this, actually have no idea what they are talking about. If they did, they’d be able to explain it in a way that would help others understand their thought.

It may not always be true, but when people use verbs as nouns, or nouns as verbs, or weird things with adjectives in adverbial forms or whatnot, it’s a red flag in my mind. I begin to tune out.

Paul warns about using “enticing words,” words that sound intelligent and yet have no real meaning.

It is highly discouraging to hear Christians do this with the Gospel. The Gospel is so straight-forward, and to hear us hip it up to be cool and trendy, while all we are doing is burying meaning, is a travesty.

Theologians do this. Corporate Christianity does this.

You don’t hear this sort of talk in the line at the food pantry.

Stop trying to fit in with the uppity-ups of the world, and go serve the least of these, even in your language.

What Does “Missional” Even Mean? Or, One Reason Why I Dropped Out of Seminary

I’ve been reading a book by an academic theologian lately. Came across this sentence:

“Missional presence and activity is nothing more than participation in the missio Dei and that participation is the praxis of atonement.”

First, let me just say, after one reading, I hope you have no idea what that means.

Second, if you do know what that means after one reading, I encourage you to get out with people more often.

Third, although theology is just a bunch of guys trying to talk smart about God, it’s not a bad thing to know how to dissect their statements.

It’s a good exercise to read complicated theology every once in a while. Not too often, but once in a while. It does stretch the brain. Sometimes it stretches boundaries of word definitions as well.

If theologians made theology easy, they’d be out of a job. Theologians spend a lot of time alone with big books. Their only hope of being of use is to turn others into isolationist book readers who talk above others.

There is no office of “theologian” detailed in the Bible for the Church. Ephesians 4, which tells us all the gifted people we need to be mature in Christ, never mentions a theologian. Yes, there are teachers, but the job of a teacher is to make complex things simple, not to make complex things indiscernible.

Theologians work in schools where others go to be theologians. They are practically of no use at all.

I understand I’m probably being flippant, hyperbolic, and rude, but seriously, it’s my honest opinion.

It is my contention that the Church would be better off without academic theologians. Anyone who thinks otherwise went to seminary, works at a seminary, wants to work at a seminary, or wants to feel like their student debt was actually worth it.

What they mainly study is what other theologians say. In the end, much of what passes for academic theology has little to do with the Bible, and much to do with dead white guys. It is a common theme among seminary observers to wonder why seminaries don’t seem to be equipping pastors for actual pastoral work. Hmmm, it’s a mystery to me.

But, I digress. To the statement above. Here are a couple common-man definitions of theological concepts:

Missional–this is a relatively new word, invented by what is known as The Emerging Church. It’s a new way of “doing evangelism.” A middle road between evangelism (telling others the good news of Christ) and the Social Gospel (doing nice things for people as we imagine Jesus would have, but probably never mentioning Jesus). Missional means that the Church is on a mission to bring God to the world, mostly shown by example, more so than by handing out tracts.

Missional presence–refers to the purpose of the church being here–the Church is God’s redeeming presence on earth.

Missio Dei–Latin for “the mission of God.” Jesus Christ isn’t just a person, the part of the Gospel who saves you. Missio Dei is seeing yourself as doing part of the saving of others by living the example of Christ to the world around you.

Praxis–means “practice.”

Praxis of Atonement--what happens when we begin to see the redemption of Christ as more than just what saved me, but living the Gospel to bring others to redemption in Christ.

In the end, all those words are defined by me and are my take on what those who use such words are saying about those words. I’m sure they would tell you I’m an idiot, that’s totally not what we mean by that.

In essence, what the theological statement above is saying is this:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Why couldn’t they just say that? Because if all theologians did was quote the Bible, they couldn’t sell books, speak at conferences, be tenured, be superior to you uneducated dolts, and so on. Also, by using complex words, they can avoid biblical application and develop their own slightly-off application. Their application is different than Paul’s on this subject.

I dropped out of seminary, I’ll admit it. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle it, I was pulling a 3.50 GPA after a year and a half of mostly Greek classes. Academic Theology was one reason why I dropped out. Couldn’t handle the smoke and mirrors, the suspicion there was a man behind the curtain putting me on. Why not just make it simple and go with the text?

Read the Bible way more than theology books.

Christianity is Love and Love Hurts

Love seems pretty easy.

When people hear that love is the main responsibility of Christianity, I think most take a deep sigh of relief.

“Love? That’s it? That’s easy!”

Then we come to find out love has big, sharp, nasty, pointy teeth and all of a sudden we want to run away.

Don’t think love has big, sharp, nasty, pointy teeth? Then I’d declare you do not know what love is.

The Gospel is God’s demonstration of love toward us.

The Gospel isn’t just about us identifying with Christ; it’s also about Christ identifying with us. He identified with the results of sin.

He was wounded.

He was bruised.

He was chastised.

He was scourged and whipped.

He was crucified.

In all this, we see God’s love to those who have suffered due to sin.

Just getting beat up didn’t save anyone, but God lowered Himself and became obedient even unto death. He tasted the results of sin, the curse of sin, and ultimately the wages of sin–death.

There is much humility here. When Jesus said, “As you do to the least of these you do to me” He really meant that.Christ gave His life for the least of these. Now go do the same and show the love of Christ.

Love hurts. Love is sacrificial. Before honor comes humiliation. Too often we jump too quickly to honor and shrink when humiliation arises.

The cross is a torture device; yet God turned it into a symbol of His love for us. A torture device symbolizes His love. A torture device.

Love hurts.

Granted, love has many upsides–He endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. Don’t mean to picture this all as negative.

My fear, however, is that we’ve pictured it way too one-sided on the happy side, and thus made a caricature of love.

Christian love and the common notion of love have a few things in common, but where they differ makes all the difference!

If your using of Christian love doesn’t have some pain in it, you might not be doing it right. More to the point–you may not know what God’s love is, and perhaps the Gospel is still just a story to you.

Newness of Life and Love

Love was most clearly demonstrated on the Cross of Christ. The sinless Son of God died to save sinners.

Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me.

Modern theology has done a fine job of emphasizing Christ. Unfortunately, sometimes they took this emphasis too far. “He did it all, we do nothing!” and other banal phrases are strewn about the theological landscape.

Although I get what is being said, and in one case would even agree–we are not saved by our works, but by Christ’s one act of obedience–this thinking gets misapplied.

Christ did die for you. This is true. By faith we benefit from His death. And by faith we join Him.

Romans 6 says we were crucified with Christ, buried with Him, and raised up with Him. He didn’t just do it FOR US; by faith we actually do all this WITH HIM.

The result then is that we are raised up to newness of life. This new life looks like the Gospel.

And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

This is where many turn back. This is where many a theological barricade is thrown up.

“Nope, it’s all by grace. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to deny myself or live for others, Jesus did all that for me.”

That sounds fine and humble and Christocentric and whatnot, but it also sounds very unbiblical.

Not living for yourself, not living according to your fleshly lusts, not living for this world is what the New Life in Christ is.

Hate to break it to you.

No, actually, I don’t hate to break it to you. I’m pleased to break it to you.

Your flesh life isn’t all that great. Gotta be honest with ya. Christ is way better than you. I’d rather have you live His life than yours.

Yeah, if a guy really bought into this he’d have to give up on his American Dream. He’d have to maybe quit some hobbies, passions, interests, and maybe even some jobs. He’d have to make some tough calls, go through the pain of cutting off fleshly patterns.

But the end is Christlikeness!

I mean, really? You’d rather be a good golfer than like Christ? You’d rather get straight A’s than be like Christ? (Those are just examples. I’m not saying Christians can’t or shouldn’t golf or get straight A’s. Different people have different hangups, What are the ones keeping you from Christ?)

It’s amazing what dumb stuff consumes our time, money, and energy. It’s amazing how “busy” we are but still manage to do all the flesh stuff.

Priorities demonstrate what life you are living. Do you have new life in Christ? Does anyone see it? If no one does, do you really have new life in Christ?

Nice is not the same thing as Love

Nice is not the fulfilling of the law.

God’s niceness was not demonstrated when Christ died for us while we were sinners.

It wasn’t because God was nice that He sent His only begotten Son.

Faith does not work by nice.

All uses of “nice” above should be replaced with “love” to be stating things correctly.

Perhaps we too often confuse love with nice.

Now, in all the above examples, certainly God was nice in sending Christ, and nice fulfills quite a bit of the law, but still, “nice” doesn’t cut it.

Love isn’t always nice.

The difference between nice and love comes down to pleasure.

Nice is defined as “what is pleasing and agreeable in nature.”

Love isn’t always shown in pleasing ways.

If my father were nice, I would have never gotten in trouble. “Oh son, yes I see you shot an arrow through our neighbors shed. Here is a pleasing and agreeable response: go eat some cookies.”

“Oh wow! Thanks Dad! Watch how quickly I can reload and shoot another arrow!”

Love, on the other hand, is willing to be real. “Son, I see you shot an arrow through our neighbor’s shed. Watch me break your bow and arrows in half. Get your money, let’s go to the store and buy supplies to fix the neighbor’s shed. Cookies? No cookies for a month.”

Always being nice is a surefire way to ruin your kids. A father who loves his son chastens his son.

If you claim God is nice, that He doesn’t chasten you, watch out! You’ve just declared He’s not your Father.

God loves you. He demonstrated that love by sending Christ to die on the cross. In order to wake you up to your need of Christ, and to get you to apply the Gospel, don’t be surprised if God occasionally does things to you that are not pleasing and agreeable to your flesh!

Remember, the same God who spared not His Son for you, is the same God who allowed His Son to be killed for you! There is great love in this, but there is also great teaching in what will become of you!

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice.

“If ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

The Spirit of God puts to death the deeds of your flesh. Your flesh is not pleased with this; it’s not nice. But guess what it means if this doesn’t happen? It means your dead in sin, which ultimately, is not pleasing to your flesh for eternity.

Oswald Chambers on Testimonies

“Beware if in sharing your personal testimony you continually have to look back, saying, “Once, a number of years ago, I was saved.” If you have put your “hand to the plow” and are walking in the light, there is no “looking back”— the past is instilled into the present wonder of fellowship and oneness with God.

If you get out of the light, you become a sentimental Christian, and live only on your memories, and your testimony will have a hard metallic ring to it. Beware of trying to cover up your present refusal to “walk in the light” by recalling your past experiences when you did “walk in the light”

–Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

What is the Main Application of New Testament Christianity?

Love is the essence of New Testament Christianity.

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

Love is what the Gospel demonstrated–while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Now abides faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

Love is greater than faith.

I doubt many “faith alone” folks consider that verse. (Another example of Church Tradition trumping Scripture.)

Faith works by love,” Paul tells us. Without love, there can be no faith. In fact, Paul says if you have faith without love, you are nothing.

Love is the main deal.

If you love the things in the world, you can’t be loving God. You love the one and hate the other. If you love God, you hate the things in the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

If you hate people, then there is no love. Being angry without cause is equivalent to murder. Love gives place to wrath, and lets God take vengeance.

Love never goes in debt in any way. Owe no man anything but to love. This is more than just a mortgage, it’s indebtedness of any kind.

Love goes the extra mile and gives more than was asked. Love loans and never asks for in return.

It makes me chuckle when believers celebrate that they aren’t under the law, “We do things out of love now, not fearful obedience!”

I hope so, but still, which is harder, keeping commandments that mostly deal with externals for a short period of time, or having a right heart that sacrificially gives to others, perfectly like Christ?

Love is the whole deal. God loved us and sent His Son. We put faith in His Son and then become like His Son. We love.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

(By the way, I quoted many verses in this post. I didn’t feel like linking to all of them, but most phrases above are quotations from the Bible. Love is a huge deal. I wonder what life would look like if we really believed this?)

Be Careful How You Ignore Bible Verses

Whether the Bible is true or not has been an issue rolling around even before it was written. Many of the prophets who wrote portions of the Old Testament had guys doubting whether they spoke for God or not.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Dealing with the reliability of Scripture is a tough issue, I do not mean to minimize it. Many Fundamentalist responses are trite and uncaring. “I believe it cuz God said it.”

Well, that’s lovely and all, but through the years many people have claimed they were revealing things “God said.” Muslims believe God revealed the Koran. What makes you think you have the one book that God REALLY said?

The issue at the heart is, “Yea, hath God said?” It’s Satan’s first attack against humanities’ obedience to their creator. The attack won’t go away anytime soon.

As long as Satan and humans exist, there will be attacks against what God said.

There are several passages of Scripture I really have no idea what to do with. There are others that I know what to do with, and I just really don’t want to.

It shocks me how hard this is for us to admit. There are all kinds of Christians who believe in a literal reading of Scripture, who literally do not do what the Bible literally says.

Head coverings. 1 Corinthians 7. Head coverings. Yup, there’s one I have no idea.

Rather than just saying, “Yeah, not gonna do it, and I’ll stand before God with that.” We feel we have to come up with an elaborate theory to explain it away.

Well, it was a cultural issue, we don’t have to do it now.

How hast thus determinethed that?

Homosexuals are using the same argument about why homosexuality is ok with God.

Women should keep quiet in church.

Well, Paul was a male chauvinist, obviously we’ve evolved past this stage of thinking.

People then launch into “there is no difference between male and female in Christ.” Which is fine, except that was said by Paul, too. Is he disagreeing with himself?

So, then they break out, “Well, Paul listed women as people who helped him in the church, there might even be a female apostle!”

Again, all that was said by Paul too, who also said women should be quiet in church.

Here’s the thing, I will not solve these issues for you. Even if I told you what I believed and backed it up, if you disagree, you’ll still disagree.

But be very careful how you have decided to chuck verses out of your Bible, because you “know” we don’t have to do this anymore. If the Bible never explains that it changed the plan, like it did with sacrifices, temples, priests, etc (read Hebrews), be very careful in changing the plan for it.

You’ve just opened the proverbial can of worms. If you can scoot around your issue like that, you have no right to be bothered by someone using the same logic to scoot around their issue.

If you think women can be pastors, then you should have no problem with homosexuals saying God is cool with homosexuality. You both use the same logic.

This is my warning: Be careful what all you throw out and how you throw it out, to keep your pet issue alive. It’s better to blame the weakness on you than on the Bible.

Any time you come to Scripture and think, “Did God really say that?” Consider the possibility you are under satanic temptation.

Bashing the Bible for Fun and Profit

Through my years in Christianity, I have been through many faddish Huge Issues. As I look back through Church History, I see that modern church trends started when the church did. The only difference is that we switch Huge Issues quicker.

Probably the first issue the church faced was disagreement over the person of Christ. Most of the first church councils were about who Christ was.

I’m glad the church started there. That is, indeed, a Huge Issue. That one lasted several hundred years. There is really no new thought about Christ anymore, it’s all been dealt with before.

I know the generations before me dealt with many other Huge Issues. Higher Criticism, ecumenical issues, the Fundamentalist’s issues, End Times issues, Charismatic gift issues, music issues, Calvinism, and now, this is my guess: the next Huge Issue will be a renewed attack on the Scriptures.

Notice I said “renewed.” Again, there is nothing new under the sun.

Calvinism has been the Huge Issue of the last 20 years or so. The argument is dying out. Everyone is tired now. So, we need a new one.

Several times in the last week I have heard people talk about Scripture not being inerrant, how Scripture really can’t be our authority, and we just need Jesus/God/The Spirit; not the Bible.

It has long been a conviction of mine that denominations were formed over an agreement on what verses to ignore.

Every reader of the Bible ignores some verses, and usually elevates others as Trump Verses. Because this verse says THIS, I don’t have to believe THAT. Never once considering that because that other verse says THAT, perhaps you shouldn’t believe THIS, if it’s that arbitrary.

Even more rare–few imagine that both verses that say THIS and THAT might both be true, and perhaps the essence of what faith is. Everything is good in its time.

So, some attempt to find a theological basis to ignore their verses. This is often humorous. Why are you using the Bible to prove you don’t have to listen to parts of the Bible?!

For instance, the other day I heard someone say he could ignore verses in the Bible because they “didn’t sound like Jesus.” We need Jesus not the Bible. Then he quoted the Bible where Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.”

That’s funny to me. If I don’t need the Bible, just Jesus, why do you quote the Bible to prove that? How does this guy know Jesus said that?! Was he there?

I understand that because of the proliferation of translations, there is much textual disagreement today, causing many to throw out inerrancy. I believe the Bible is inerrant in their original forms. I do not believe the KJV is inerrant, nor the New American Standard, nay, not even the hip ESV.

I am OK with understanding there may be copyist error here and there and poor translations. In fact, I don’t even know if English is exact enough to truly do justice to the exactness of Hebrew and Greek.

However, there are an abundance of really old original language documents that can give us good confidence that we have God’s Word. To undermine that is to ignore evidence and common sense.

If you disagree with that last paragraph, that’s fine. I agree with it.

If Christians decide that we can’t trust the Bible, all we need is our individual “sense” of “who Jesus is,” we’re in huge trouble.

Anything goes. Nothing matters. You are your own god, which is what people have long wanted, and is what is at the heart of most attacks against the Bible.

I don’t mind a scholarly analyzation of textual criticism that seeks to find meaning and reliability, but I do mind people changing Scriptures for their own fleshly lust, or just to make noise so they can sell books.

I understand not wanting to seriously consider stuff in the Bible. There’s plenty of stuff in there I don’t want to do either. But to go to the extent to eliminate the Scriptures so you can do that thing the Bible clearly says not to do, you’re in trouble.

Jesus Moth

A woman in Texas believes she has been visited by a moth with Jesus on its wings. The Imperial Moth, which is brown and yellow, allegedly has the appearance of Jesus on its wings. See for yourself.

jesus moth

She believes it is Jesus and takes it, of course, as a sign.

Esquilin had been praying for a way to continue her daughter’s education, and believes that the timing of the moth’s appearance is significant. The family also discovered that the color yellow symbolises hope, and brown represents important news.

“I believe this was a sign,” she explained. “God is letting me know good news is coming and to keep the hope.”

So, there ya go. Jesus did talk about moths once, putting your treasure in heaven not where moths can eat it, which seems to be not consistent with her interpretation of the “sign,” but alas, it’s not the first time Jesus’ appearance has overshadowed His words. T’won’t be the last time either.

Who Won the Calvinism Debate? I Can Tell You

Last week there was a much publicized debate about Calvinism.

Although I’ve heard enough debating about this subject to fill my lifetime, I did listen to some of it this morning for some reason.

Let me just say this:

If you are a Calvinist, you believe the Calvinists cleaned up.

If you are a non-Calvinist, you believe the non-Calvinists cleaned up.

The way I decide who won a debate is like this: who would I like to sit down and talk to more about this and related subjects.

So, in my opinion, who won this debate?

I definitely did not like one guy on each side.

Tim Jones, one of the Calvinist guys, breathed funny when he talked and got all breathy. I don’t like breathy speakers, they sound fake to me. Trying too hard. Just say your stuff and stop trying to emotionally get worked up to emotionally work up others. Just talk.

I dismissed Mark Driscoll many years ago because he also uses weird breathy talk. It irritates me. It took the church many, many years to find out Driscoll was a messed up guy. I knew this just from listening to his voice the first time I heard him. People that get all breathy in their speech are trying to stir up stuff that isn’t there. It’s a gimmick, covering a lack of substance. Stop it.

The non-Calvinist that I didn’t appreciate, Brain Zahnd, just said weird things in weird ways. I think we come from different worlds.

Both of these guys I didn’t like are probably nice guys and good human beings. I just didn’t like their presentation.

I would have much preferred hearing a debate between Dan Montgomery and Austin Fischer. I would have gained more out of that. At one point I even cheered for Montgomery, the Calvinist, for poking a hole in one of the dumb things Zahnd said.

If you read this blog or attend my church, you know I detest Calvinist theology. I’ve read all of Calvin’s Institutes and wrote a paper on each chapter. I liked about 70% of what he said, which was a higher percentage than I anticipated. The rest (which mainly constitutes what people mean by “Calvinism”) was hooey. I know the arguments (you don’t have to repeat them to me) and I don’t agree with them.

So based on breathing styles, the non-Calvinists won the debate hands down. I would love to sit down and chat with Austin Fischer.

Calvinists–we already detest your theology and your notion of God, try not to further detest us by dropping into breathy speech patterns. Not winning ya any points.

Get Out of Your Father’s House for Spiritual Growth

When God separated Abram to be His Guy, He said this to Abram;

Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house,

Perhaps these words are still vital for us today?

There is a trend of young people staying in their parent’s house. I can see how this is advantageous, but I can also see how it hinders growth.

When you know there’s a fallback place, it makes it easier to call it quits.

Some have left the nest and then discovered that life is tough, they can’t handle it, and some get in with the wrong crowd and believe the lies of the world.

I can see coming home for a refresher course. I get that.

But, seriously, spiritual growth is an individual thing. Families need to let their young people go, maybe even kick their young people out.

Get moving. Live. Make mistakes. Learn. Be in a place of loneliness where you have you and the Lord, that’s it. That’s where faith is tested. Do you trust Him?

Over and over in Scripture we find the guys whom God used greatly, separate from family roots.

There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, you won’t find your spot in the sun sitting in the shade of the family tree.

I had a great family growing up. They knew I needed to leave. I knew I needed to leave. It worked out well. I moved to a new state. Threw myself out there and was terrified.

It was one of the best things I ever did in my life.

There doesn’t need to be rebellion, or meanness, or anger. Family is there to help. One of the best ways family can help is by knowing when to go!

All of this advice is especially for young men. Notice the words of Christ:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Although He says to hate these various members of your family, even your wife, note he never says “husband!” This is either because He’s talking to men, or it’s because wives are to honor their husbands. Either way, this is especially important advice for young men.

Young men. Get out of your parents house. Your faith needs this.

They Left Their First Love

The church in Ephesus was doing well, but by the time John writes Revelation, they seem to be headed the wrong way. John celebrates them and then warns them:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

I have heard this passage addressed many times, all with the same warning to individuals: “don’t backslide! Remember how excited you were when you first got saved? Return to that excitement. Return to that passion when you couldn’t stop witnessing and hating on sin!”

Well, here’s the thing.

I have known several people who had unbelievable passion at the moment of their conversion. They ran about witnessing, sharing their testimony, and railing on sin. It was cool to see!

Unfortunately, few of those actually stuck with it. They remind one of the seed that falls on the stony ground, they received the word with joy, until it got hard, then they quit.

I find a bit of a snobbishness among Christians about how you got saved and how you responded. If there wasn’t some huge emotional moment when you got saved, or there wasn’t some huge outpouring of spiritual activity 24/7 where you could hardly sleep, you must not be saved.

However, I don’t really see that in Scripture. Anytime Scripture talks about guys who flailed wildly in their new faith, there seems to be a warning attached to it.

What about Paul, oh Jeffy boy? Paul, upon being saved, ran around doing stuff and freaked out everyone. The church told Paul to go cool off in the woods for a while.

I think the best thing a church can do with a young, excited believer is let them cool off. Too often we throw these people out front and then watch them implode.

I don’t think the warning to Ephesus is about an individual needing to return to first-moment emotions, but rather a call to be careful to always be moving forward.

Instead of worrying about backsliding, make sure you’re foresliding and watch out for cliffs.

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